HC Deb 26 June 1974 vol 875 cc1536-8
7. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the discussions that took place on Thursday 30th May between Her Majesty's Government and the Spanish Government over the future of Gibraltar.

Mr. Hattersley

These Anglo-Spanish talks between officials in Madrid on 30th and 31st May were entirely exploratory, without commitment and without prejudice to the positions of either side. No decisions were taken. The talks derived from the United Nations Consensus of last December.

Mr. Hughes

Were the people of Gibraltar made aware that these talks were taking place? If not, why not? Does my hon. Friend appreciate all the harassment and economic pressure that they have had to put up with over several years? Surely my hon. Friend can confirm that at least it is not the intention of a Labour Government to hand over the people of Gibraltar to the Fascist régime in Spain.

Mr. Hattersley

A Press statement about the meeting was issued, and I hope that the people of Gibraltar know that one of the matters that the meeting considered was the issue not so much of harassment but of the restriction on travel in and out of Gibraltar. As for the most important aspect of my hon. Friend's question—the future of Gibraltar—I confirm that the Preamble to the 1969 Gibraltar Constitution Order—namely, that Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar pass under the sovereignty of another State against their free will and democratically expressed wish—is and will continue to be the policy of the Government.

Mr. Money

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the people of Gibraltar have freely and openly expressed their desire to stay within the rule of law and within an area which has religious toleration and free trade unions? Does he also accept the deep concern being shown by the people of Gibraltar about Press reports of the negotiations that Her Majesty's Government are entering into at this time?

Mr. Hattersley

I doubt whether the concern is as great as the hon. Gentleman suggests, and I hope that my assurance today about the future of Gibraltar will allay any concern that exists. Our policy remains the absolute insistence that the people of Gibraltar must decide where their own destiny lies, and the hon. Gentleman is right that they have decided to leave it lying within the present constitutional arrangements.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Although we accept my hon. Friend's assurances, will he accept that being between a Fascist kingdom on the one hand and a feudal kingdom on the other is not a very fortunate position in which to be? Will my hon. Friend not only undertake that the people of Gibraltar will have the right to express their own opinions when any conclusion is reached, but accept that the people of Gibraltar should be told at all times what the British Government are doing?

Mr. Hattersley

I accept that, of course. That is why the talks concluded with a comprehensive briefing about the details of some of the rather prosaic subjects discussed, such as air access to Gibraltar, which, although there had been less progress than we had hoped, we felt should be made clear to them.

Mr. Amery

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm—he has not made it clear in his answers so far—that the Gibraltar Government have been kept fully informed of the progress of the talks?

Mr. Hattersley

Yes, of course. It would hardly have been possible to keep them uninformed, since we briefed the newspapers.